Monday, November 21, 2011

What has happened to us?

In Davis, CA, university police stepped into a circle of students who were sitting in passive civil disobedience and began pepper spraying them. The police were not threatened, but committing an act of deliberate violence. Some reports have said that as students covered their eyes and mouths with clothing, the police pulled that clothing away and sprayed the chemical directly into their throats.

Look at this photograph, of the calm policeman who walked down the line, spraying each student, and then walked back and continued spraying.  As one would spray bugs in the house.  Utter and total disdain.

  James Fallows:
Watch that first minute and think how we'd react if we saw it coming from some riot-control unit in China, or in Syria. The calm of the officer who walks up and in a leisurely way pepper-sprays unarmed and passive people right in the face? We'd think: this is what happens when authority is unaccountable and has lost any sense of human connection to a subject population. That's what I think here.
At least 50 years ago, they didn't have pepperspray. Then, they used firehoses.
This is America?


Ann said...

Yes - this is America - we are no different from any other Empire - sad to say

IT said...

Could it be a Turning POint, as this author argues? I'd like to think so. But I'm not confident that the momentum is enough.

dr.primrose said...

In my opinion, the protestors have a pretty strong case for a winning lawsuit against the officers involved, and very likely the university as well. Several years ago, there was a big case in California involving the use of pepper spray against peaceful protestors who were protesting the logging of redwood trees in Humboldt Co., which is on the coast in Northern California (Headwaters Forest Defense v. County of Humboldt).

In that case, the police officers used pepper spray on nonviolent protestors, to force them to release themselves from lock-down devices, by applying pepper spray directly to their eyes. The officers refused them water to wash out their eyes unless they released themselves, threatened the pain would get worse, and authorized full blasts of pepper spray against the protesters, despite the maker's warning against spraying from three feet or less away.

The case bounced up and own the federal judicial system for about 10 years, with three trials, two Ninth Circuit opinions and a trip to the Supreme Court between the two Ninth Circuit opinions. In the second Ninth Circuit opinion in 2002, the court held that the facts warranted a jury trial based on the theory of excessive police force. You can read that opinion here.

According to the protesters' website, the jury ruled in their favor but awarded them only nominal damages. That's enough, however, to hold the police officers liable for attorney fees. The matter eventually settled before additional appeals.

Unlike that case, in this case, the law concerning pepper-spraying peaceful protests is now settled. There will not be years of bouncing up and down in the court system and the protesters will be entitled to a jury trial. Jury trials are crap-shoots. But the officers and the university do face the potential of big-time damages plus attorney fees. Plus this particularly embarrassing for Davis, which views itself as being one of the more progressive UC campuses.

Ann said...

I am thinking about campus police - generally ill-trained and perhaps thinking these are spoiled brats when he has to work for low pay. Rather than allies - they have become enemies.

JCF said...

Please pray for my alma mater, massing in response now (I'd be there, except I have to take my dad to the doctor's)

JCF, UCD BA 1984


Brother David said...

Teen in gay-student slaying case agrees to 21-year prison term

I was really afraid that he was going to get away with this.

Leonardo Ricardo said...

Resentments. Resentments everywhere...flames fanned by fear/hate-mongers and greedsters who wanted MORE! More of whatever it is that turns them ON or OFF! Feardriven ignoramouses (educated or not) who harm others...yes, it´s getting close to the nastiest bit of all and they´ll never win (no matter how many guns they´ve stockpiled or LGBT people they ¨nervously¨ hate or working people they degrade and demonize...and they´ve already started firing, spraying and, it´s getting hot and the President will WIN next year...the holy exploiters of others will go insane!

Leonardo Ricardo said...

Nice to see you Hermano David, I hope you´re well and safe and sound up Mexico way.

Un abrazo fuerte,

dr.primrose said...

Ann, I'm afraid I don't agree of your characterization of the UC Davis police as ill-paid and ill-trained.

One of the UC Davis police officers involved has now been identified as Lt. John Pike.

According to a job posting on the UC Davis site, a UC Davis police lieutenant makes between $6,479.00 and $11,662.17 a month. That's between almost $78,000 and just under $140,000 a year. Plus benefits, which are quite good for California state employees.

Among the required qualifications is a Certificate from the State of California Peace Officers Standards & Training.

These folks are not ill-trained or badly paid. There may be some arguable class-resentment but most students who go to UC campuses like Davis are solidly middle class. I suspect the median income of the parents of Davis students is somewhere in the range of what UC Davis police lieutenants are paid. It's certainly no more and I wouldn't be suprised to find out that it's less than the minimum mentioned above.

All this makes what happened at Davis even more inexcusable. These are people who should know better.

Ann said...

Thanks Dr. Primrose for the info. Just was not my experience at other colleges. It is not excusable any way regardless.

IT said...

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that Lt Pike makes,

$110,000 a year. Yep. You heard me. Nearly twice what they pay a new assistant professor in the humanities, and three times what they pay many full-time nontenurable lecturers.

So, this isn't some under-paid cop. He's doing better than nearly anyone on campus.

dr.primrose said...

This info comes from a site run by the Sacramento Bee newspaper. I didn't know it existed. You can find it here .

I ran the names of some people who work for the State of California that I know (my bad) to see if it worked. It does. Fascinating!

Thanks, IT.